A lifelong love of Christmas and a more recent passion for Christian music has led to Unsung Noel, a new holiday album by Journey’s Jonathan Cain that comes out Oct. 13, and is premiering exclusively below.
The set includes 10 new songs written by Cain as well as renditions of “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “O Holy Night” (his mother’s favorite song), “Do You Hear What I Hear” and Matt Redman’s “Light Of The World.”
“I wanted to make an album that really celebrates the Nativity and the birth of Christ and the coming of Christ and the things I thought were missing on a lot of the Christian albums,” says Cain, who released his first Christian album, What God Wants To Hear, last year. That particular mission led him to become “sort of a detective,” delving deep into topics he wanted to address in his own material for the album.
“I really studied it and went into the Bible and really got into the scripture part,” Cain explains, “reading Mark and going back to Isaiah, how they prophesied the birth of Jesus 700 years before he was born. And just the idea of his parents; Being a parent, I was fascinated with the Mary and Joseph thing, thinking they need a song, too, being part of this miraculous time in history. And this supernova star that showed up that astronomers can’t figure out why it was in the sky. All these things made it fun for me, and sort of provocative, being a rock n’ roll guy. Why couldn’t I just look at this in a new light?”
But the co-writer of so many Journey hits was also conscious of making something accessible, too. “Oh, yeah, I wanted it to have rhythm. I wanted it to have balance,” acknowledges Cain, who wrote most of his original songs during Journey’s 2016 summer tour. “And I hit on a nice combination of songs. It was just something I felt I could do. It was very positive.”
After another spring and summer on the road with Journey, Cain isn’t planning much in the way of live dates to promote Unsung Noel. He may, however, present a Facebook concert from his wife Paula White’s Grace Church Nashville and is eyeballing some potential shows in Florida closer to the holiday. The album, meanwhile, gives him something he never had a chance to do with Journey, although Cain does recall making some Christmas music with the group.
“Neal (Schon) did a version of ‘Joy To The World’ that we released, and on one of his solo albums we did ‘Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel,’ so we were playing around with it,” Cain recalls. “Steve (Perry) kind of hinted around with it, but I don’t think we ever got to that place. You have to get serious; You can’t just say, ‘We’re gonna do one!’ and not do it. Leading praise and worship was a whole new level for me to go to and explore, so I felt like I was exploring something different.”
This was, of course, a difficult year for Journey, after a series of social media messages by Schon over control and direction of the band. Schon also criticized a White House visit by Cain (whose wife is on President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory council), frontman Arnel Pineda and bassist Ross Valory. Cain says the latter was “just an innocent visit, very, very private, it wasn’t anything political” and it was never intended to be made public. And he’s keeping an arm’s length from the other issues Schon raised, especially in the wake of Journey’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
“You have to talk to him about it; I woke up one morning and there was a storm, and I just didn’t get it,” says Cain, who’s also working on a memoir. “It was very, very difficult to deal with. He decided to share it with the fans instead of talking to me. But we still showed up and played our asses off. And then of course more stuff came out, and more stuff, and it was just hard to watch. I have no comment about anything else except we played great, we were selling out every night. I just chose to take the high road and play, whatever differences there were.” Cain adds that the band “will have to get through our differences” before announcing plans for 2018, but he’s confident that will happen.
“Y’know, the music is bigger than all of us. It’s bigger than any kind of squabble,” Cain says. “We’ll get through them. Something like that wasn’t the first time we’ve come at odds with each other. It’s been 36 years now. But I think time heals all things, and you move on. I love this band too much, and Ross loves this band, and we all love our fans. I think in the end we all have to just tolerate and get along, and I’m prepared to do that. I have no malice towards anybody. I know God will see us through. I just feel sorry for the fans who had to go through it. They can rest assured that we’re gonna be all right.”